The Evolution of Industrial Hand Tools: From Traditional to High-Tech Solutions

Industrial Hand Tools

Industrial hand tools have certainly come a long way over the years. Today’s hand tool and accessories boost automation features and are a far cry from what our ancestors used. As technology sharpened and new industries emerged, industrial hand tools have shifted from one design to the next to meet the needs of the contemporary population of the day. While automation has threatened the existence of some industrial hand tools, many continue to provide immense value, cementing their place as irreplaceable components of the industrial workflow. Today, we go back in time to trace the steps of hand tools throughout history as we reminisce on the journey and seek to understand our tools even better. 

The Oldowan- Where it all began

Tracing their origins to the East African Savannahs, the Oldowan tools were discovered by archeologist couple Louis and Mary Leakey, who are responsible for naming them as such. The gorge in which they were found today ranks as a UNESCO world heritage site, due to several other prehistoric fossils found onsite. 

While early many didn’t have factories or large industrial settings to work with, there was still a need for hand tools to fulfill everyday tasks. Dating back more than 2.6 million years, these archaic and simple tools would kick start hand tools as we know them today, serving as the basic tools for early woodworking. 

Early man typically used Oldowan tools to process raw materials namely: 

  • Wood
  • Bone 
  • Plant, etc

The Oldowan is essentially a stone whose sides have been chipped off through the action of a hammerstone. Our ancestors achieved different designs by incorporating different stone shapes and sizes to fulfill a variety of applications. 

The onset of wooden hand tools

Fast forward into the future, and industrial hand tools transitioned from stone to wood or rather started incorporating bits of wooden elements into the design. The wood would provide grip and fulfill ergonomic needs while stone proved the source of power.  

Now, humans started going large with their cutting tools at this point with some early inventions including the Acheulean hand axes. At this point, there was also great experimentation with hard stone tools such as:

  • Delorite
  • Granite hammers 
  • Obsidian 

From mallets to planners, ancient societies would greatly rely on wood to survive and even quite literally put down the building blocks of modern industry and civilization. These hand tools played a pivotal role particularly in ancient Egypt, helping to craft architectural marvels – namely the Great Pyramid of Giza – that today stand as one of the seven wonders of the world. 

The age of metal

While man stumbled upon copper 4000 years prior, it wasn’t until 5000 years BC that man started experimenting with native metals. In the 2000 years preceding the Bronze Age, early man would use gold and other then easy-to-find metals for a range of applications. 

Even then, wood still retained a special place in the industrial workflow. So much so that wooden nails were still in use until the 20th century, before being replaced by their more efficient metal alternatives.  But it wasn’t just about nails. Many a hand tools distributor would use wood for many other products. 

Then, the winds of change shifted that trajectory. Civilization started using melted bronze as a more durable alternative for their hammerheads. From there, further alterations kicked in in terms of:  

  • Altering the shapes and design of hand tools (For instance, claw hammers transitioned from a square face to the round outlook that we know today)
  • Reliefs
  • Cutting edges and more

It was not too long after that we would also have other heavily metal-based tools such as the metal bender hand tool. 

The timeline of popular hand tools

Hand tools cropped up and emerged at different points throughout time. The earliest hand tool known to man was the hammer. Here’s a glance at when various tools came into fruition

  • Spanner – its oldest recorded use traces to the late 18th century
  • Saws – Saws are much older, having been created in the 4th century. Back then, there were more like sharpening files for accessories and did not achieve any wood cutting
  • Screwdriver – The screwdriver saw the light of day in the late 15th century
  • Tape measure – Crafted in 1829 to make woodworking easier 
  • Scissors – These handy tools made their entry onto the industrial scene in ancient Mesopotamia about 4,000 years ago. 
  • Pliers – The first pliers- made completely from wood- came into being 5000 years ago

Modernity takes root

As humans evolved, so too did their technologies. Electricity came about and with it, the era of electrical-powered hand tools, some battery-powered and others corded.  These became the way to go due to their speed and efficiency, which are two highly valuable traits in an industrial workflow.  

Such tools have also become very popular as they afford a lot more: 

  • Precision 
  • Accuracy 
  • Convenience

Hammer drills and grinders are great examples of modern hand tools. These alleviate all the heavy lifting, so to speak, from the operator’s plate, with motors taking care of most of the brunt work. 

But as industrial workflows also emphasize practicality and the need to reduce the size of the toolkit to ensure on-the-fly workflows, multi-functional hand tools also entered the fray. For example, today, we have multitools that fulfill up to 14 different functions within the design of a single hammer. We’re talking about the Pohaku Multitool hammer, which also doubles up as a pair of pliers, pocket knife, claw hammer, can opener, and much more. 

Multifunctionality is a trend that will continue to carry the day, and more technologies may have a bigger part to play in the future. 

Evolution is always on the move

They have made giant strides over millennia but we most certainly have not seen the last stage of the evolution of industrial hand tools. Not by a long shot. As new technologies crop up and new industries emerge, we’re bound to witness even more new and intuitive designs. The future most certainly is exciting, not just for hand tools but industrial equipment at large as well. For now, our enthralling walk down memory lane takes its leave here. What hand tools do you use in your business? Let us know. If you’re in the market for the top hand tools suppliers in UAE or are keen to buy hand tools online, be sure to also spare a moment to talk to some of our vetted Industbay sellers.

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